Any time I begin to think that the Mariners have no chance in Hades of competing for the AL West next season, I just need to remember three little words: Ryan Rowland-Smith.
I realize many people reading this are infatuated with Adam Jones and feel he is going to be the impact newcomer on the big league roster. Jones may be an improvement in RF or LF but I don’t see him having the potential to make the same impact as RR-S can. To clarify, I’m referring to improvements over the 2007 roster. Obviously it helps when you are replacing Jeff Weaver or Horacio Ramirez.
If I had my way, I would start the season with the hyphen as my fifth starter… but I wouldn’t be expecting a typical 5th starter performance from him.
I’m sure his flyball tendencies are worrisome to a few of you. As Ken stated in his “Ballparks and Starting Pitchers” post, Washburn types are more valuable in Safeco than anywhere else. The overlooked nugget is that Smith has always posted average to above average strikeout rates.
Strikeouts+Flyballs+Lefthandedness@safeco= Good pitcher
His curveball is the key to his success, not his fastball. Velocity drop in his fastball is not the concern for RR-S that it is for Morrow. If Smith mixes his pitches and avoids the temptation to throw his fastball past major league hitters he should have a very good season. (By very good season I’m talking about a sub 4.50 ERA.) If RR-S loses a few mph on his fastball, it’s not that big of a deal because he will still have a very good curveball.
The most serious concern with RR-S is whether or not he can hack it as a starter. Will he be able to pitch 6 to 7 innings every 5 games and give the Mariners a chance to win? I don’t know. We won’t know for sure until he actually gets a chance to start. What is important is that he has given every possible indication that he is the Mariners best internal option for 2008. For a team with limited funds and 2 rotation spots to fill, RR-S should be penciled in as the 5th starter.